Pensions discrimination claim won by Judges

A claim against the Ministry of Justice for age, sex and race discrimination has been won by over 200 judges, who had their pension entitlements significantly cut.

The case was brought by six high court judges – Sir Nicholas Mostyn, Sir Roderick Newton, Sir Philip Moor, Dame Lucy Theis, Sir Richard Arnold and Sir Rabinder Singh – as well as 204 crown court judges, district judges, sheriffs and tribunal judges.

If lost benefits are fully restored, the employment tribunal ruling could cost the government up to £118 million. It could also extend pension protections of a similar nature to employees in other areas of the public sector.

Following the 2012 introduction of new judicial pensions, they alleged discrimination on the basis of age. Two of the high court claimants additionally claimed gender and race discrimination – Theis and Singh respectively.

Previously, the judicial pensions provided an income of a 40th of a judge’s final pensionable pay multiplied by the length of their service. On retirement, a lump sum would also be paid of two and a quarter times the yearly rate.

It was found that the younger judges had been discriminated against by the Ministry of Justice and the lord chancellor at the time, Liz Truss. Whilst older judges had been allowed to remain in the judicial pension scheme, they have been required to leave in April 2015. Tribunal judge Stuart Williams stated that this discrimination could not be justified.

Representing 204 of the judges was Shubha Banerjee from law firm Leigh Day, who commented on the ruling.

“This is a great victory for our clients, many of whom sit alongside older judges who were appointed some years after them but who are, in effect, paid more purely because they are older.

“The fact that there is a significant number of female and BME judges in the younger group simply compounds the unfairness of the changes that were made to judicial pensions.

“According to Judicial Office statistics, about one-third of all judges in England and Wales last year were female, and only 7% described themselves as from a black or other minority ethnic background.”

Concern has also been expressed in relation to pension cuts and their wider impact on deterring potential judges. Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd has brought to attention the apprehensions surrounding remuneration available to the senior judiciary and hopes that individuals will not be deterred from applying because of this.

Other public sector groups who have had their pension rights reduced could also be affected by the ruling.

Representative of the high court judges, Shah Qureshi also commented on the decision, stating that “These reforms not only discriminate against younger judges but also disproportionately impact on women and ethnic minorities.

“The protection of those closest to retirement at the expense of younger judges was not a legitimate aim nor was it proportionate. Indeed the tribunal noted that younger judges compelled to join the new scheme are the worst affected by the reforms.”

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice also responded to the judgement, expressing disappointment and stating that an appeal would be considered.

 

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